Activity 1: A Home Hearth
Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Bag(s) of powdered plaster of Paris
- Plastic tarp to cover floor
- Wooden paint stirrers for mixing plaster of Paris
- Large plastic containers with tight lids
- Plastic measuring cups from ground coffee or powdered laundry detergent
- Aluminum pie tins for all participants
- A permanent marker
- Votive candle holders or tea lights for all participants
- Stones for participants to decorate their "hearths"
Preparation for Activity
- Purchase plaster of Paris, enough to mix wet plaster to fill each child's pie tin a third full.
- Obtain plastic sheeting or non-porous drop cloths. Use these to cover the work area.
- Obtain several plastic buckets that have tight-fitting lids such as ice cream or food storage containers; wooden paint stirrers; and plastic scoops such as those found in cans of ground coffee and boxes of laundry detergent.
- Obtain enough aluminum pie tins and votive candle holders or tea lights for all participants, and an assortment of stones to decorate "hearths."
- Shortly before your session, mix plaster of Paris with water in the plastic container(s) by following the package instructions. Cover the container(s) tightly and store the wet plaster at room temperature.
Description of Activity
Ask if any of the children have ever heard of a hearth. Allow responses. Then, say in your own words:
Long ago a hearth was the place in a home where people kept a fire burning, sometimes all day and all night. The fire was used for cooking and staying warm. It was the place where people in a family would naturally gather.
Do any of you have something like that, where you live now? Do you have a hearth in your family home?
Participants may offer, or you may suggest, a kitchen stove, a fireplace, a wood stove, a dining room table with candles lit for dinner, or an electric heater. Tell the group that even if their family home doesn't have a hearth, they will be able to gather with people in their home around the hearth they'll make today. Say, in your own words:
Today you will make an old-fashioned kind of hearth, a hearth like those made by Earth-centered peoples since ancient times. Earth-centered people lived in harmony with nature; they gathered or grew all their food from nature, made all their homes from what they gathered from nature, and honored the spirit of life that they believed was in all natural beings and things.
Earth-centered cultures have for centuries created home hearths by compacting earth or using stone rings. The home hearth was a place for cooking, gathering, warmth and family life. The hearth was usually centered in the structure so that smoke from the fire rose through an opening in the roof or top of the structure. People often added stones around their hearths.
Write each child's name in permanent marker on the bottom of an aluminum pie tin. Distribute the pie tins, and demonstrate how to fill a pie plate one third full with the pre-mixed plaster, using a plastic measuring cup.
As children fill their pie tins with plaster, distribute the votive candle holders or tea lights. Invite participants to place theirs firmly into the plaster in the middle. Provide the stones you have brought, and allow participants to choose a few to press into the plaster, deep enough so the plaster will harden around them.
"Hearths" may not be completely dry when your session ends, but they will dry overnight. Encourage children to put the hearth in a central place in their family homes, a place where family members gather, such as a table where people eat together.
You may mention to parents when they pick up their children that they can light a flame in their home hearth during times of gathering. The Taking It Home section for this session also mentions the hearth.